Posted on October 22, 2018 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

If only we could go back in time and talk to the child versions of ourselves!

Author Debbie Herbert was a bookworm throughout her youth and particularly enjoyed writing “angst-filled poems” as a teenager.

So imagine her reaction if the adult Herbert could tell her younger self that she was destined to work at a state prison for a few years and set writing aside for even longer than that. 

Thankfully, that isn’t how her story ends.

Herbert did set her pen down for years, with the exception of an offer to publish her poetry that was later withdrawn because of a change in management at the press.

But a few years ago, she went to her local library to listen to an author speak, and it rekindled her desire to write a book.
Herbert went on to fulfill that dream several times over, ultimately publishing several paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels and racking up some impressive awards.

We’ll let Herbert fill in the details of her happy ending.

SADYE: How did you end up working as a corrections officer?

DEBBIE: When I graduated college with an English degree in 1979 and moved to a small town in Alabama when I got married, my career choices were pretty limited. 

In desperation to help put food on the table, I applied for a job at the state prison. 

I have to admit I was surprised when they hired me and even more surprised that I managed to graduate from the Corrections Academy where I had to pass a rigorous physical agility test and a firearms test. 

I worked in both a men’s and women’s prison for three years before advancing to public relations work in the department’s central office. 

The leap from librarian to corrections officer was never a career choice I had anticipated.

As much as I disliked the job, it held a strange fascination for me. I was a relatively naïve 21-year-old thrust into a foreign world. 

I remember sitting in the segregation/death row unit one day, listening to a couple of women laughing about killing their husbands, and thinking, “How did I wind up here?”

But if nothing else, the job sparked my interest in crime and psychology, which may ultimately be the reason I’ve chosen to write either suspense books, or books with strong elements of suspense.

SADYE: What kept you going during the time when you weren’t finding trad-pub interest? 

DEBBIE: I honestly don’t know, other than the fact that I enjoyed writing and believed that someday I would have success. 

This optimism persisted even when I garnered over three hundred agent rejections during the first two years I wrote. 

Some may call this being delusional. At any rate, it served me!

I’m one of those people who believes that if you work hard, never give up, and keep learning the craft, that you’ll eventually find readers and editors who appreciate your book.

SADYE: One of your sons has autism, as do some of your characters. What would you, as a caregiver and as a writer, tell other authors about writing characters with autism?

DEBBIE: It came so naturally to me. Characters with autism truly just wound their way into several of my books without me consciously setting out to include them. 

With my first Harlequin book (Siren’s Secret), it was really important to me that the character with autism show a side to the spectrum that the general public is less familiar with. 

Everyone had seen the high-functioning end of the spectrum with Rainman, and I wanted to show the opposite. (My adult son is on the severe end of the spectrum.)

I did have a couple of readers blast me because they felt like I did people with high-functioning autism a disservice. 

However, I received many reader letters from moms dealing with the opposite end of the spectrum, and they were so appreciative that I portrayed what this is like. 

I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to connect with these readers!

As for other writers, I’d advise spending some time with persons with autism to authentically portray their mannerisms and interactions. 

At the very least, talk to caregivers and listen to their stories. I know how busy we are, but this is so important to accurately portray.

SADYE: What type of magical creature/being would you most like to meet and why?

DEBBIE: Oh, a mermaid! Anyone who knows me for two seconds will grin at this question. 

You could say I’m mer-obsessed. I believe mermaids are archetypes of feminine power and beauty — and that’s the reason little girls are so drawn to them. 

I’ve always fantasized about swimming with dolphins, exploring shipwreck treasures, living on a tropical island ... really, how can you not love mermaids?

SADYE: You’re a USA TODAY bestseller, a RITA finalist, and a Maggie finalist. Which meant the most to you?

DEBBIE: As far as the external validation of awards and sales, the RITA finalist nomination meant the most because it is a national, peer-judged contest that is well-known in the romance publishing field. 

Along with my husband and new editor, I was able to attend the awards ceremony in Orlando and see my name on the big screen with industry giants. 

Talk about inspiring!

SADYE: What’s coming up next for you?

DEBBIE: My next book release will be April 1, 2019. 

Cold Waters is a psychological suspense published by Thomas & Mercer, which is Amazon’s suspense imprint. The book has strong elements of southern gothic.

I have three more Harlequin Intrigue books to be published in 2019 and 2020. 

Two of them are stand-alone romantic suspense novels with southern gothic elements, and the last one, Appalachian Peril, is a continuation of the Lavender Mountain series.

I also hope to publish an indie paranormal romance novella with a Christmas theme next year. This novella would be part of my Appalachian Magic series.

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Categories: Author Interview

Thanks, Gwen! Everything is book fodder, right? LOL
Debbie Herbert | | 10/23/18 at 4:11 PM
Wow! From librarian to correctional officer! Glad it added to your desire to write thrillers. What an awesome life experience to use in your books.
Gwen Knight | 10/22/18 at 4:18 PM
My pleasure Linda!
Debbie Herbert | | 10/22/18 at 4:13 PM
Thank You for sharing your work and life with us 😊
Linda Moffitt | 10/22/18 at 9:47 AM
Thanks, Sadye for the opportunity!
Debbie Herbert | | 10/22/18 at 9:21 AM
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